Goaaaalposts …. Goaaaalposts

On October 25th, as the final seconds of the Nebraska game ticked away, the chant of “Goaaaalposts …. Goaaalposts” drifted through the student section.  The indication was clear – the goalposts were coming down.  In the stands before the start of the Oklahoma game, the chant returned.

The confidence that lightning really could strike twice, that the Buffs really could conquer both of the “Big Two” in the same season, was only enhanced when the a 120-yard gold ribbon was unfurled just before the kickoff of the Colorado/Oklahoma game.  The ribbon stretched from goalpost to goalpost, and was presented by some corporate sponsor (I’m sorry, I can’t remember which one.  I’m guessing it was Coors) who had donated the funds to replace the goalposts torn down after the Nebraska game.  The fans were given a clear message – nothing would please the school more than to have to replace the goalposts a second time.

It would not be easy.

Oklahoma in 1986, defending its 1985 national championship, was a juggernaut.

Coming into the contest against the Buffs, Oklahoma was first in the nation in rushing offense (431.6 yards/game), first in the nation in total offense (499.4 yards/game), and first in the nation in scoring offense (46.4 points/game).  On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma was first in the nation in rushing defense (48.9 yards/game), first in the nation in total defense (166.6 yards/game), and first in the nation in scoring defense (6.2 points/game).  The Sooners were on their way to the triple-crown in both offense and defense.

Colorado was not in the top ten nationally in any of the six categories.

CU head coach Bill McCartney, for one, was not intimidated.

“Our kids will fight their hearts out”, McCartney promised, “The Buffs are going to make a real run at these guys.”

There was one category in which the Buffs were nationally ranked … behind All-American punter Barry Helton, Colorado was second in the nation in net punting.

The Buffs would need him.

November 15th – Boulder          No. 4 Oklahoma 28, Colorado 0

Some 52,702 fans, the 8th-largest crowd in Folsom Field history to that time, crammed in to watch the Buffs fall short against a superior Oklahoma squad.  Colorado’s offense never got on track all afternoon, as the Buffs never were closer to scoring than the Sooner 39-yard line in a 28-0 shutout.

The nation’s No. 1 ranked defense held the Buffs to only 127 yards on the ground, and a pathetic one-for-eight passing.  Colorado did not help its own cause, turning the ball over four times.

The most painful turnover came with 7:45 left in the first half.  Colorado trailed only 7-0 at the time, but had the ball at its own two yard line.  A fumble and a one-play, two-yard drive by Oklahoma later, Colorado was behind 14-0 in a game where two scores may have well as been ten.

The final score was not indicative of the effort put in by the Buffs’ defense.

The Sooners, while compiling 344 yards rushing, always played to a short field.  On the day, the average starting position for Oklahoma’s drives was its own 48 yard line.  Translation:  the game was played almost entirely on the Buffs’ side of the field.  The score could have been much, much worse.

“I’m not disappointed with the kids”, said head coach Bill McCartney after the game, “I’m proud of them.  They fought hard.”  Continuing to be upbeat, McCartney noted that the 5-5 Buffs could still claim a share of the Big Eight title.  “If we win in Manhattan (against Kansas State) and Nebraska wins (against the Sooners), we’ll have a share of the Big Eight title.  That will be a heckuva year for us.”

At least one reporter was also sold on the Buffs’ and their effort.  Rocky Mountain News honored columnist Dick Conner put the day in perspective:

“…. CU went to the Freedom Bowl last year.  It could wind up next Saturday as Big Eight co-champion.  Yesterday, for almost 51 minutes, it played one of the best teams anywhere as well as McCartney or even the most fervent alum could hope. The CU program, in such absolute tatters just four years ago, is healthy and thriving again. That was yesterday’s real result.”

Colorado was now 5-1 in Big Eight play, but, more importantly, 5-5 overall. A season-ending loss to Kansas State would guarantee the Buffs would stay home for the holidays in 1986.

Game Notes –

– There was one asterisk on the stats sheet that November day.  The Colorado defense tied an NCAA record in allowing Oklahoma no pass completions on the day.  Zero.  None.  Of course, the defense’s accomplishment is somewhat muted by the fact that the Sooners did not attempt a single pass the entire game, the first NCAA team in almost a decade to pull off that feat.

– Combine Oklahoma’s zero completions with Colorado’s one completion, and you have a game with a grand total of one completed pass, which must be some sort of modern record. For the trivia buffs, the only player to catch a pass in the 1986 Colorado/Oklahoma game was Anthony Weatherspoon, who had one catch – for eight yards.

– The ten first downs against Oklahoma was not even a season-low for the Colorado offense, as the Buffs were able to muster only ten first downs against Arizona in a 24-21 loss earlier in the 1986 season.

– As you might expect in a shutout, there were few offensive numbers posted. O.C. Oliver had 55 yards rushing, while Anthony Weatherspoon had 51 yards.

– No. 4 Oklahoma would rise to No. 3 in the polls after the win over Colorado, as No. 2 Michigan was upset by Minnesota that same weekend. The Sooners would go on to defeat No. 5 Nebraska, 20-17, to complete an undefeated Big Eight campaign. The 10-1 Sooners (who had been No. 1 before an early season loss to then No. 2 Miami), finished an 11-1 season with a 42-8 rout of No. 9 Arkansas in the Orange Bowl. Despite the lopsided win, Oklahoma did not move up in the final poll. No. 2 Penn State upset No. 1 Miami, 14-10, in the Fiesta Bowl, to claim the national title, with Miami dropping to No. 2 in the final polls.



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